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JEFF BROOKS STOOD in his kitchen, furiously chopping green peppers, trying to expend some of the sexual frus-tration that currently had his shorts tied up in knots. Making breakfast was infinitely preferable than fanta-sizing about the woman happily snoozing in his bed.
Sheldon Summerville. Party girl. Socialite. Profes-sional shopper. She was off-limits, with a capital O, little f, little f. O-f-f. F-f-o. He recited the jingle in his head, while thinking about her father, who, three months ago, had hired Jeff's firm to "redeem" her image. As if such a miracle could be performed by a mere mortal without the use of a padlocked chastity belt. Anything termined to share with the world.
He selected an onion and began to hack, his eyes burning from the juices. Today he welcomed the discom-fort. Sheldon Summerville left him frustrated profes-sionally, sexually and mentally. He'd never met someone so determined to ignore what the world thought, espe-cially her father, Wayne Summerville, the head of Sum-merville Consumer Products. They were the number two consumer product conglomerate in the world, proud maker of Toothbrite toothpaste, among other things.
Sheldon's party-girl reputation didn't sit well with Wayne's stockholders. Apparently, people with whiter teeth and fresh breath could be real frumps. However, even Jeff thought she went to extremes, and he was no monk himself.
The bigger mystery was why? No matter how long Jeff racked his brain, he couldn't figure Sheldon out, and she provided no hints. Always smiling in that vacant and clueless manner, which had ceased to fool him by Day Three. To make matters worse, she had no qualms about making lewd, yetmajorly imaginative propositionsespecially to him. He looked down at the mess he'd made of the onion and tossed the thing in the trash. Maybe shallots would be better.
Imaginative propositions he wanted to ignore. Propo-sitions he should ignore. Okay, propositions that he didn't want to ignore, .
Last night had been a stupid idea, but every night with Sheldon was a stupid idea. She had conveniently left him a message that she was going to the notorious club, Crobar. Jeff, knowing her message was code for multiple doses of alcohol, had shown up at ten, hoping to play re-sponsible chaperone. At ten-oh-nine, he'd pulled her off the bartender, at ten-thirteen, he'd pulled her off the New York Ranger's goalie, and when he caught her kissing the bouncer, he knew it was past time for her to go home.
They'd argued until the cops came, threatening to arrest her, which would be exactly what she wanted. So Jeff had poured her into a taxi and taken her home. With him. It seemed like a good idea at the time. It had still seemed like a good idea six hours later when he woke up on his couch. In fact, it had seemed like such a great denouement, that he had congratulated himself on finally lassoing her into some sort of obedient servitude.
Everything had been fine until he opened the door to his bedroom, and saw her curled up, one hand cupped under her cheek like a child, sheets tangled between bare legs that were anything but childlike. Instantly his
Jeff wasn't a self-disciplined man, had never worried about consequences, but this, The quiet little devil on his shoulder began whispering in his ear, telling him to go wake up her up in the best possible way. She wouldn't mind.Ah, there's the rub. She wouldn't mind. She would welcome him with arms wide open, those sea-blue eyes promising so many things. Glorious, wondrous things,
Thump. Thump. Thump. He whacked the shallots with his cleaver. Hard. Right now he needed to destroy something, and vegetables would be the victim of choice.
SLOWLY SHELDON SUMMERVILLE ROUSED herself from the fog of sleep into the fog that most people called life. She could smell him on the pillow, and she smiled, clutching it tighter to her. A persistent thump-thump echoed in the apartment, possibly the beating of her heart. Sunshine poured in through the window, and she Sated? touching, no kissing, nothing remotely sate-like last night. She merely slept in his bed. By herself.
So if he wasn't in his bed, where was he?
Sheldon threw back the covers, looked around, and then rubbed the sleep from her eyes. The mysterious thump-thump was consistent, and now that she knew it wasn't someone's heart, the sound was annoying.
Silently, she padded into the kitchen and watched him as he chopped, chef's knife in hand. Thump. Thump. Thump. First the green peppers, then back to the red ones. He didn't notice that she was standing, staring, ogling.
It was criminal that Jeff Brooks could be so tasty, so buff, yet still work in the stab-you-in-the-back-world of PR.
What was criminal was how badly she wanted him. She pulled at her tank top and leaned back against the wall, adopting her patented vacant, though sexy stare. As soon as he felt the weight of her stare, he looked up, took a long eye-drinking of her skin, cocked one brow, and then went back to chopping peppers.
"Can you put some clothes on?"
Even his voice was sexy. Deep and rough, with that scuffed up mark of New York City, which he couldn't hide no matter how hard he tried. He was tall and lean, with strong legs emerging from the loose boxers that did more framing than concealing.
She soaked up the sight of him, her nipples harden-ing under the thin material, and without cold air, artifi-cial device, and or a drenching of water.
Did he notice? No. He was happily making break-fast as if she didn't affect him at all.
Her mouth opened, so tempted to lash out at him, but it would ruin her image. Lashing out implied, passion, emotion, feeling. Instead, she leaned one hip against the edge of the granite counter, and let the full cascade of her platinum-blond hair fall over one well-formed breast.
From the time she was a kid, everything had been done for her. All her whims had been granted, all her wants fulfilled. When you were the porcelain doll in the glass case, there was no reason for ambition or dreams.
You would think someone with her life would be happy and at peace, and if she were normal, that would probably have been the case. But there was something wrong with Sheldon, some piece of her wiring that never connected because she only felt empty. A tinman without a heart, a scarecrow without a brain and a lion without courage all rolled into one.
The only tangible assets that belonged to Sheldon dead men moan. Hall of Famers is what the tabloids termed her cleavage and Sheldon had learned to use it whenever necessary.
Like now. "You're complaining?" she drawled.
His strong, capable hands never stopped their me-chanical chopping motion. For weeks, she'd had dreams of those hands on her. Steamy, vivid dreams that didn't disappear when she'd woken up.
"Not complaining, just trying to be helpful." He smiled at her, a toothy, advertising-type smile, possibly attributed to Toothbrite toothpaste. She suspected that he knew she hated itboth the toothpaste and the smilewhich was why he did it.
"Is there something I can do?" she purred, her eyes gleaming when his hand stopped for a second.
He waved her off and continued working. "Hungover this morning?"
She pulled her hair into a ponytail, her chest lifting with the movement.
His gaze drifted down.
Her lips curved upward. "Are you ever closed for business?" he asked.
Her eyes, normally vacuous and sultry, looked down meekly so that he wouldn't see the rage. Rage implied a depth that she didn't want to possess.
She backed away from the kitchen, the knife, and the man with the strong, capable hands, and padded bare-foot across the room.
"I think I'll take a shower," she stated, slipping the tank over her head. It was a picture designed to freeze a man's brain, but he wasn't even watching. She was furious at herself for such an obvious act of desperation, but not so furious that she didn't slide the signature red panties down over her long, tanned legs as well.
"You don't mind do you?" she asked louder than necessary, her heart rapping inside her. He did this to her, reduced all her self-confidence to shreds.
Finally, his dark gaze lit over her, and she felt each and every white-hot touch. This time he didn't smile, only lowered his head and continued the whap-whap-whap against the cutting board.
She left her clothes in a messy heap in the middle of the floor, and retreated to the loneliness of his shower. She turned on the warm spray and let it wash over her lover with knowing, capable hands. She shouldn't have been alone. He should be there, too.
Men didn't ignore herever. Especially men like Jeff. He was no extraordinary example of humanity. He devilish eyes weren't supposed to be steely strong.
He should be weak.
Men in the media business never had scruples. She was sure of it.
Life truly wasn't fair.